2020 Harvest Notes

The 2020 harvest was a challenge for so many here in Northern California due to an unprecedented number of wildfires. We harvested three weeks earlier than in 2019 after heat spikes in July and August spurred the grapes to ripen more quickly, and we were lucky to avoid the smoke that settled upon our area.

With the continuing drought in Northern California and all over the western United States, we feel lucky to have a strong producing well to provide irrigation to our five-year-old vines. Even so, we have been strategic about our watering this season, using only drip irrigation and timing our watering for when we need it – adding a bit more during heat spikes and backing off to encourage growth to the grapes after the summer solstice.

When the sugar levels rose in mid-August, we tried to allow for as much “hang time” as possible for flavors to develop. In consultation with Adrian Manspeaker, our winemaker and also purchaser of half the crop this year, we decided to harvest blocks 4, 5 and 6 on August 21 at 24.2 brix and the remaining blocks 1, 2, 3 and 7 on August 25 at 24.3 brix. We had only one day of heavy smoke during that time, and we feel confident that the wine escaped any smoke taint. We were very lucky to be harvesting before many of the fires exploded in our region.

 Harvest started at dawn on both days, and we were able to get everything in by 10 am and on its way to the winery soon after, ensuring that the grapes stayed cool. We had a little over 9.3 tons in all – a big increase from last year’s meager 1.1 tons! This year we had enough of each block to divide the fermentation into different blocks. It will be great to begin to get an idea of the character of each block. 

Adrian grouped the fermentations into the following sections:

·  A half bin of Block 1 and all of Block 7 (both 115 clone) into one bin

·  The rest of Block 1 – about 1.5 tons – including some whole cluster 

·  Combined Blocks 2 & 3 (both 115) – 5.29 tons – into one large tank, including 1 bin of whole cluster

·  Block 4 (Calera) in its own bin

·  Combined Blocks 5 & 6 (both Calera) into one bin

At the winery, we were under an evacuation order due to nearby fires. We were allowed in because of the essential nature of processing the grapes. While we sorted the bunches, helicopters flew to a nearby pond to capture water to fight the fires. It was a very eerie experience.  All went smoothly, fortunately, and we were able to button up the grapes and their juice for their fermentation.

Adrian thought the juices from the grapes this year had good flavor and color, and the tannins softer. We are excited to see what results from our efforts this year!